Many iOS Apps Found to Record Screen Activity Without Permissions

These Mobile Apps Could Be

These apps have been found to literally record your iPhone screen, without asking for your permission or notifying you about it. Those apps were bypassing Apple's privacy policies, and it is still speculative whether the information collected was under respective volunteered users' consent.

A hot potato: Apple has long positioned itself as one of the few tech companies that prioritize users' privacy, but it appears that several popular iPhone apps don't support that narrative.

Several apps are tracking us by recording our phone screens, according to new information discovered by TechCrunch. While they may provide a useful service to app makers by helping fine-tune their products, it isn't a great look that those apps aren't disclosing to their users that they're snapping screenshots of their every move. For the most part, not withstanding bugs like the FaceTime one exposed by a teenager, Apple does a good job of telling you when an app is accessing personal data such as location services or contact information.

Some of these companies use Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm that lets developers include so-called "session replay" features inside their apps. This technology allows every tap, button push, and keyboard entry to be recorded and sent back to the app developments. Since its inception, Glassbox has helped organizations improve millions of customer experiences by providing tools that record and analyze user activity on websites and apps. But it's not the only app to gather information about what users are up to, and to feed this back to developers. Air Canada's iPhone app was not properly masking the session replays, however, exposing passport numbers and credit card data, according to The App Analyst.

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"This gives Air Canada employees-and anyone else capable of accessing the screenshot database-to see unencrypted credit card and password information", the App Analyst said told TechCrunch. The breach leaked passport numbers and other sensitive data.

TechCrunch's investigation revealed that some of the other apps didn't mask email IDs and postal codes during session recordings. These are effectively screen recordings extracted from users without their express consent. While collecting user data purely for creating better apps makes sense, it's also important that users are aware how much of their sensitive data could be escaping their device.

Neither Apple, Air Canada, Expedia, Hotels.com, Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister immediately responded to requests for comment. But there was no clarity on where in Abercrombie and Hollister's privacy policies it is mentioned of screen recording. The first step, he says, is having companies be more honest about how they collect their users' data and who they share it with.

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